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The care and feeding of grizzly bears at the Akron Zoo
The big scary ursus horribilis is back in Akron and visitors are glad 

by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Siblings Jackson (foreground) and Cheyenne are getting to know their new home at the Akron Zoo.
Courtesy of MARK URYCKI
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The Akron Zoo opened its largest expansion ever this year with a section devoted to North American animals called the “Mike and Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge.” It includes red wolves, otters, coyotes, bald eagles, and two young grizzly bears.

Grizzly Ridge has turned out to be a hit with the public, and WKSU’S Mark Urycki went to find out more about the bears, one of the largest animals on the continent.

Eric Albers offers more details on the grizzlies.

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Akron Zoo curator Eric Albers has more on the bears' new home and their diet.


Akron Zoo curator Eric Albers has more on the bears' new home and their diet.

Zoo spokesman David Barnhardt says the grizzlies can see (and smell) downtown Akron. And recently they discovered the Goodyear blimp.


Zoo spokesman David Barnhardt says the grizzlies can see (and smell) downtown Akron. And recently they discovered the Goodyear blimp.

(Click image for larger view.)

The first two animals on display at the park that is now the Akron Zoo in 1900 were grizzlies. Now they’re back.

In fact, two cubs from Montana and two from Wyoming both arrived around the same time at the Cleveland Zoo about a year and a half ago. This summer, the Wyoming siblings, Jackson and Cheyenne, moved from Cleveland to Akron. The curator for mammals at the Akron Zoo, Eric Albers, says their mother was a nuisance bear in Wyoming and was killed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The cubs were captured.

“These guys were young enough that they probably would not have survived on their own. They’re probably about 2 ½ years old [now] and they’re only about half as big as they’re going to be. Jackson, the male, is about 320 pounds. He’s easily going to get up to 600-800 pounds. Cheyenne, the female, may get up to 600 or so if you had to guess but she’s only about 270-280 right now."

The grizzlies could live as long as 30 years in captivity, about twice as long as in the wild. 

The Grizzly Ridge complex cost $12.8 to construct. Some of the buildings were modeled after the 19th century Mustil Store on the Ohio canal. And the bears den sits just about on the old Portage Path, a trail that the Indians used to carry their canoes from the Cuyahoga to the Tuscarawas rivers. Visitors have two places to watch the bears up close behind glass.

“The bears will come right up here and they’re usually 2 inches away, through the glass.”

Re-creating nature
The bears have a couple caves, a swimming pool, and several large tree trunks.  Their area is built on a slope to keep it more interesting. And in a tactic that sounds a little like the “messing with Sasquatch” commercials, the zookeepers will move the bears inside for five minutes while they hide food around their yard. 

“They’re natural foragers so they keep doing their natural activity. You always want to keep changing it up on them so they can stay interested and keep looking around and see what’s going on.”

Jackson and Cheyenne are weighed each week as they walk over a scale. In fact, they’ve been trained to come close enough that keepers can give them a close look-over without anesthetizing them. The bears’ food is a mix of vegetables, meat and fish, and as the days get shorter, their appetites get bigger.

“When they came here they were eating about 4 pounds apiece [per day] with everything. Now, as bears will do this time of year, they start really packing on the pounds for winter and their diet has really started to increase. So they are probably getting about 6 pounds apiece now.”

Grizzlies are territorial, and even though they are siblings and were raised together, Jackson and Cheyenne may at some point want to keep away from each other. Albers says the zoo has designed the facility to do that if necessary. Keeping these large bears is expense and the animals are dangerous but Albers says getting grizzlies was worth it.

“The best time to come up here was the first couple days we opened and to see the excitement and the big eyes of the kids. That did make it worth it.”

And visitors seem to agree. Since the Grizzly Ridge complex opened, the zoo has been setting attendance records.  Eight of the top 10 attendance days have come in the last month.   

Listener Comments:

There are no plans to breed the bears. Orphan cubs from the wild are generally available for zoos each year. But maybe Cheyenne will meet someone and want to tie the knowt. :)


Posted by: Mark Urycki on August 30, 2013 10:08AM
Me and my children love the Grizzly ridge nicely done my children want to know will cheyanne get married and have cubs in the future I'm typing what they tell me!!Thank you


Posted by: Angel Jackson (perkins park dr.) on August 30, 2013 9:08AM
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